A few minutes at the end of the program was set aside for questions.
“What about your children?” someone asked.
“Are they or have they been treated differently because their mother has been in prison?”
The three women seated at the table in the front of the room had all served their time. Two of them several years. One of them twenty-five years. The children of the two younger women had been born in prison and were too young to know about prison or about what their mom had done or to face the teasing and taunting and discrimination that older children might have faced. The children of the older woman had been raised by grandparents and grew up only periodically seeing their Mom. Fortunately, for them, a strong support system was in place and they competed high school and then college and are finding their own way in the world.
But, it is an important question isn’t it?
Do we punish or allow children to be punished for the wrong doing of the parents?
Many children, maybe most in the situation asked about, suffer the consequences of the destructive decisions and behavior of their parents. Poverty. Lack of support. Abuse. But do we, you and me, punish the children or think the children deserve to be punished?
As I listened to those mothers speak about the impact of their decisions on their children, I found myself thinking of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students who now, because of current climate and policy, face an uncertain future. Brought to this country when they were children by parents who were fleeing oppression or violence or poverty and who are now in high school or college in the only country many of them have ever known, should they be forced to leave? Forced to “return” to a county they have never known? Will we punish them for the decisions their parents made?
At a recent rally in support of the immigrant community, a lone woman stood off to the side holding a sign which read, “The law is the law.” I wish I had gone over to speak with her and to ask her what she thought should happen to the children a couple of whom had spoken at the rally. Yes, the law is the law, but we are the ones who make the laws and can remake the laws when they no longer work or apply to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
“What about your children?” she asked.
Yes. What about the children?